Forging the Trident 

2 February 2004

Andrew Bowden looks at the short history of ITV’s first consolidator.

When people now think of consolidation in ITV, they’ll probably think of Granada buying LWT or Carlton snapping up Central in the 1990s, however the first two proper examples both involved Yorkshire and it’s North Eastern rival, Tyne Tees.

Whilst the pairing of the two companies in the early 1990s ultimately led to the whole of ITV in England and Wales being run by one company, their combination in the 1970s didn’t have the same repercussions.

The Cause

The reason for the coming together of Tyne Tees and Yorkshire was partly down to transmitters. The shape of each company’s transmission area was based on the coverage areas of the VHF transmitters – in Tyne Tees’s case, the Burnhope transmitter.

Unfortunately the new UHF transmitters didn’t match the same transmission area as the VHF ones. The intended allocation of Bilsdale transmitter in North Yorkshire to Yorkshire Television, would have seen the Tyne Tees area reduced, to Yorkshire’s benefit. That said, although Yorkshire gained Bilsdale, it had lost out on part of it’s southern region to Anglia. It was a rather messy state of affairs, and Tyne Tees’s finances were suffering.

Forming the Prongs

To get round the problem, a union of companies and a transmitter swap was proposed – Tyne Tees and Yorkshire would merge, Bilsdale transmitter would be given to Tyne Tees and Anglia’s Belmont transmitter would go to Yorkshire.

A precedent for the merger had been set some years before when in 1963 Welsh broadcaster WWN collapsed, leading to an arranged marriage with it’s South Wales and West rival TWW – in that case the two separate franchise areas were never advertised separately again.

No doubt with that in mind, the Independent Television Authority agreed to the merger, on the condition that the two companies retained their individuality as programme providers.

The vehicle for this combination was Trident Television, a joint venture formed in 1969 to sell airtime for both companies. On 1 January 1974, in a reverse-takeover, it took over its parent companies. For the first time, one company owned two distinct and separate ITV franchises although the new company was dominated by the larger, stronger Yorkshire whose shareholders owned 71.5% of the new company.


One of the mysteries surrounding Trident Television is the involvement of Anglia Television. As anyone familiar with tridents will know, there are generally three prongs, and it is believed by some that the original plan was to merge Tyne Tees, Yorkshire and Anglia together with each company being one prong.

However evidence from the family of JP Graham, one of the driving forces behind Tyne Tees and Trident, says that this is not true and that that the third prong was the companies other business interests. Those other business interests included Windsor Safari Park, a scenery construction company called Watts and Corry, and a film distribution company called Trident Films.

Whatever the situation was, Anglia was never part of Trident, although was involved with a joint venture called Trident Anglia – formed to sell programming on the international market.

Removing the Prongs

The combination of Yorkshire and Tyne Tees as well as the transmitter swaps, led to reduced costs, and put Tyne Tees on a healthier footing.

On screen at least the two companies remained distinct and separate although proposals were made in 1974 and 1976 to rename the companies ‘Trident Yorkshire’ and ‘Trident Tyne-Tees’ although both were rejected.

The improved healthiness of the business meant that the case for retaining Trident diminished, and the Independent Broadcasting Authority imposed the condition that for the 1980 franchise round a company could only own one franchise, although it could earn up to 30% of another.

After negotiation with the IBA, Trident decided to get out of television, and when the new licenses started in January 1982, sold all but 30% of Yorkshire, and 25% of Tyne Tees.

Trident also sold much of it’s over TV interests, including it’s stake in a certain Satellite Television Limited, which was launched in 1982 as a pan-European satellite broadcaster.

Trident sold out in 1982 not long after launch, and by 1984 the remaining shareholders had sold the station to Rupert Murdoch for just £1, with the channel being re-branded as Sky Channel. It wouldn’t be for nearly a decade until that small television channel morphed into the pay-TV operation we know today.

Playing with the Bunnies

Trident’s love of television gone, it moved into the leisure industry buying Playboy’s UK non-publishing businesses, consisting of five casinos in London, Manchester and Portsmouth, a half share in two more in Salford and the Wirral, and 81 betting shops in London. All but two of the London casinos were quickly sold. Two smaller casinos in London were later added to the portfolio in the autumn of 1982.

In 1983 it was announced that Trident would sell Windsor Safari Park and it’s remaining non-casino business, and rename itself Trident Casinos. Shortly after it merged its operations with rival operator, Pleasurama. In a very short time, Trident had gone from being a big player in ITV, to extinction.

You Say

4 responses to this article

Matthew 7 November 2013 at 12:27 pm

… and Sir Jimmy Hanson of Trident was supposed to be the sharpest financial brain in the business! Selling Sky to Murdoch for a pound, heavens a- blinking-bove…

Alfred Braithewaite 15 November 2013 at 1:27 am

Hanson was an asset stripper whose genius was making money over a very short period and leaving the gutted companies as wrecks which soon disappeared and all their employees given pink slips.

In the corporations that Hanson controlled,

long-term planning, especially if it involved fundamental or indeed any type of research or major capital investments was not permitted thus ensuring the eventual demise of the business.

Hanson was the first English businessman to earn over £1 million per year.

Naturally his destruction of numerous corporations and the consignment of countless skilled employees to the unemployment pile was rewarded with a seat in the upper chamnber of the Westminster Parliament.

Rachel Collins-Lister 27 November 2019 at 11:21 pm

I was born on the day the reverse takeover took place.

Stuart Beacham 6 April 2022 at 10:37 pm

You say that Yorkshire TV gained Bilsdale and that there was a subsequent transmitter swap with Tyne Tees. Not true. Yorkshire never had Bilsdale. The 1971 ITV yearbook says – on page 178 under the title ‘North East England’- “a main UHF transmitter at Bilsdale (channel 29), due to open early in 1971, will also be allocated to this area.”
The 1972 ITV yearbook says – on page 203 under the title ‘North East England’ – “the coming into service of the station at Bilsdale (N. Yorks) in March 1971 saw the completion of the main phase of high power UHF stations for this area.”
There was an intention to give Bilsdale to Yorkshire TV – the 1970 ITV yearbook confirms this (page 158) but with the formation of Trident (in August 1970 according to some info I found on the internet) it was decided to give it to Tyne Tees from the outset.

Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Wednesday 17 April 2024